Roxey Ballet Bounces Back After Ida Destroyed Its Facilities

December 21, 2021

On September 1, 2021, Hurricane Ida tore through the northeastern U.S. with a barrage of tornadoes, rainstorms and floods that devastated entire communities. And in Lambertville, New Jersey, it turned one ballet company upside down—almost. When Roxey Ballet’s facilities were completely decimated by residual floods, the surrounding community rallied to help the company recover and find a new home. Now, with two successful weekends of Nutcracker performances already under its belt, Roxey Ballet is ready to give back.

A dance studio is shown in shambles, with the studio floor covered in water and mud, with scattered debris and a door off its hinges on the ground.
Roxey Ballet’s studios after Ida. Pinja Sinisalo, Courtesy Roxey Ballet

Mark Roxey, the company’s executive and artistic director, recalls seeing the company’s destroyed facilities on the morning of September 2: “The entire 10-block radius was completely roped off. The building was submerged in water. It looked like everything had been flipped upside down and shaken in a snowglobe.”

“It was catastrophic,” says Roxey Ballet company member Pinja Sinisalo, who was the first one on site. “I was afraid I didn’t have a job anymore,” she adds, especially after last year’s fully virtual season with eight dancers, just half the normal roster.

A dance studio is shown in shambles, with mud coating the floor, debris strewn everywhere, and the studio wall dislodging from the ceiling.
A destroyed studio at Roxey Ballet. Pinja Sinisalo, Courtesy Roxey Ballet

As a founder of the 27-year-old contemporary ballet company, Roxey says the sight of the ballet’s studio, office and black-box theater space in pieces was devastating. But what happened next, he says, showed the magic of not only the dance community but the entire Lambertville area.

Pitching In to Help

Lees Hummel, Roxey Ballet’s director of education and outreach, set up a GoFundMe for the school and company. The page soon attracted 239 donors and raised over $30,000 in relief funds for Roxey Ballet and its affiliated Mill Ballet School. Local and national businesses rallied too, donating money and materials to help the company get back on its feet. Even finding a new space, which would have been an exceptional challenge amidst pandemic-induced financial woes, was covered by community support. The New Hope fire marshal of nearby Bucks County, Pennsylvania, whose daughter trained at MBS as a child, promptly offered the fire department’s banquet hall as a temporary studio space—free of charge for the foreseeable future.

After three weeks of preparation, Roxey Ballet’s new training facility was outfitted with donated barres from Harlequin Floors, mirrors from Rose Brand and dance floors from Gerriets. The company began rehearsing again, and the school’s education programs continued as usual—including a Nutcracker children’s audition with over 100 dancers in attendance.

A “Thank You” Said With Dance

Now, with two nearly sold-out weekends of The Nutcracker completed, Roxey feels optimistic and is inspired to give back to the community. On December 22, the company will present A Very Lambertville Holiday Celebration, a holiday-themed tribute to the city composed of 10 new works choreographed by Roxey, Sinisalo and other company members and alumni. Featuring live music by local musicians through the Lambertville Historical Society, the performance will be available to stream online.

Despite the season’s challenges, the future looks bright. “These events have brought us closer,” says Sinisalo, who just made her debut as the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker. “We will take it a day at a time from here.”

Roxey reflects on the power of community support through dance. “You can’t really begin to understand the power of the seeds you plant until times like these. But they are powerful, and it’s beautiful to see them germinate and grow.”